U.S. women earned first gymnastics medal since 1948

Los Angeles was host to the Summer Olympics 25 years ago. This fifth part of a 16-day series looks back at Day 5, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 1984.


The U.S. women’s gymnastics team soared to new heights on this day. Trailing the Romanians by less than a point when the day began, Julianne McNamara earned two perfect scores, with her 10 on the uneven bars being the first perfect score by a U.S. female gymnast in the Olympics. Sixteen-year-old Mary Lou Retton followed McNamara and earned a perfect score on the vault, leading to the first medal finish for the American women since the U.S. won bronze in 1948.

The big news


The big surprise

No one expected Americans to medal in wrestling, but the Anaheim Convention Center was filled with 4,850 screaming and chanting fans. The last minute of the Greco-Roman match between Steven Fraser of Ann Arbor, Mich., and Romania’s Ilie Matei proved to be worth watching. With 41 seconds left, Fraser got Matei in a front headlock, slipped uncharacteristically to the side and made the final takedown. Fraser, a 31-year-old deputy sheriff at the time, became the first American in history to win an Olympic medal in Greco-Roman wrestling.


Fraser is now the Greco-Roman wrestling coach for the U.S. and has coached his teams to 18 Olympic and world medals.


McNamara recently opened a clothing boutique called Hipster Kid in Westlake Village where she resides with her husband Todd Zeile, who was on the U.S. baseball team, and her four children. After traveling with her husband, who retired from Major League Baseball in 2004, McNamara is glad to now have the opportunity to use what she learned during her gymnastics career and apply it to business. Reflecting on the 1984 Olympics, McNamara said, “The best memory was that it was here in L.A. It was such a treat to be able to compete in our home country.”

From the archives

“Jeff Float, a member of the world record-setting American 800-meter freestyle swimming relay team, is 80% deaf in one ear and 60% in the other. His sense of humor, however, is intact. Float, the leadoff leg, told a news conference he had noticed crowd noise for the first time after his first 100 meters. ‘When I hit the wall, it was unbelievable. The noise was just . . . deafening,’ he said, without realizing the pun -- until his teammates broke up laughing.”

-- Times staff writer Jerry Crowe

Spotlight on

The pentathlon. On this day, the final two stages of the event -- pistol shooting and a 4,000-meter cross-country run -- took place. And the U.S. team won the silver medal well behind Italy but only three points ahead of France. The silver was as good as gold, though, because it was the first U.S. team medal in the history of the event.

-- Lauren Goldman